What needs to be on your People Agenda for 2021?

HR’s role in Managing the Long-Term Impact of the Pandemic and Remote Working

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our way of working. But how will the big shift we are seeing within our clients to remote working, impact how we work in the future, and what role does HR have in managing the long-term impact on businesses?

Remote Working

Covid-19 forced many companies to switch to remote working literally overnight. Although some companies and employees alike have relished in their new working from home arrangements, to be successful in the long run will require a more structured approach with the involvement of HR playing a crucial role in determining what the “new normal” is for your business.

Committing to any long-term or permanent remote working arrangement should include consultation with your team, to make sure you get it right. It may also take significant financial investment to ensure employees are successfully set up to work from home with suitable desks, chairs and equipment , and in place to maintain productivity levels.

In order to keep remote workers engaged, motivated and supported by their manager and company, managers will need to learn new techniques to have good conversations remotely and will need to have more 1:1’s with their teams

The business will also need to consider how it keeps remote workers “engaged” with the business, so company updates, financial information and team building done virtually will need HR input and involvement to execute these events successfully.

People Management

For anyone who manages people, a change in work practices, patterns or environment is never easy. People adapt differently to change; some take it in their stride and adjust quickly, others take more time, working their way methodically through the change curve and slowly buying into the “new normal”.

Working remotely is new territory for most of us, so we all need to be more agile, adaptable, and flexible than ever before. Good HR professionals are crucially aware of this and will be more responsive and supportive to their managers and their people as a result. They need to look for areas of opportunity with their managers and provide additional support such as reviewing and streamlining people practices and policies which will provide greater flexibility and responsiveness in areas such as recruitment, performance management, employee engagement and performance reviews and catch ups. .

A largescale shift to home working, perhaps permanently, would not be possible without trust and confidence between managers and employees. Trust in the workplace can be harder to build and maintain when working remotely,  , especially for new employees who may have started with companies during lockdown.

HR should work with mangers to set clear objectives and goals, emphasising the importance of achieving results rather than the process or time taken to achieve them. For managers to develop successful relationships with employees, change will be required from everyone:

  • Set clear expectations
  • Ensure you have open and honest communication
  • Schedule regular check in’s or 1:1’s with your team
  • Have the trust and confidence that your employees are productive with their time

Striking the right balance of employee contact, communication and feedback and not applying a “one size fits all” approach to all employees will help to ensure your employees don’tfeel micro-managed but empowered, engaged and trusted to do their job well.

Work Environment

If more and more companies make the long-term switch to semi-permanent home working, and there is additional desire from employees for flexibility, this shift to working online presents a whole new set of challenges for employers. Technology and equipment have suddenly been thrusted into the limelight.

Not everyone will have the same technological capabilities to do their work, or the quality and speed of broadband to work effectively from home,  but the importance of different tools that enable online communication, productivity and interaction will become increasingly important in the future.

In order to meet the demands of this evolving way of working, HR needs to engage with businesses and managers to ensure that their employees’ tools and equipment are fit for purpose, meet the demand of their roles and where possible, offer additional technology and support to ensure employees are productive and engaged. Whilst every role is different, successful remote working is impossible without some absolute essentials:

  • Sufficient internet/broadband package – are you considering contributing to this if it needs improving or upgrading?
  • Communication accessories to enable phone and video calls – such as headsets, microphones
  • Correct office chair/desk set-up
  • Role specific stationery and equipment such as a printer

At times like these, it is important that employees feel valued, and whilst employers may not be able to change an employee’s home wi-fi connection, they can ensure they have the basics to perform their job.

Employee Well Being

The move to remote working is not suitable for everyone. The psychological well-being of employees is impacted due to social isolation.  For some, the lines between home and work life are now blurred more than ever before. Although some employees may be enjoying the extra time at home to spend with their families, an increase in productivity or the absence of a long commute, for others adapting to remote working when they are used to a bustling office environment or interacting with customers or clients every day is challenging and can take its toll on an employee’s mental health and well-being.

HR and managers need to play a key role in ensuring employees build and maintain social interactions and keep in contact on a regular basis. Whether this is through online social activities with colleagues and teams or network-building activities to help employees engage and connect with industry peers or professionals or even simply weekly check in’s with their team, discussing both work and non-work related topics. HR should also be promoting any mental health services or employee assistance programmes to ensure employees and Managers are aware of the options they have should they need to seek professional advice or support.

Summary

Although the future may seem uncertain, Covid-19 has normalised remote working and employees have expectations about flexibility in their work/life balance more than ever before. Working remotely should be an opportunity for HR to work collaboratively with businesses to help the business to re-think and improve the way they work now, to forecast potential long term impacts on employee productivity, well-being and engagement in order to sustain a new way of working in the future.

If you would like to have a chat with us about how the changes to your working environment are impacting your business and your people and how we might be able to help you manage these changes and implement new ways of working, then book a call with us here; http://bit.ly/CallMerakiHR